Roses

This is my first piece of fiction EVER… so it’s still a work in progress- we’re looking at draft two here:

Roses
by Anne Burdette
English 134: Creative Writing

The evening air was crisp and cool. Where the deep blue met the horizon sky, a soft yellow glow reminded her of the impending fall of night. Moments ago she was sitting through a writing conference; now it was the silence surrounding her as she sat on the steps of the old brick building that begged her to be still. The helicopter’s buzz overhead grew to a roar when it flew through the patch of sky directly above her head. Interrupted from the quiet of the night, she wondered about the next moment she might be still.
She had responsibilities now. Her childhood chores of helping mom with the dishes, setting the table, and making the bed would soon become her daughter’s. Sweet Eva was only four. Bright-eyed with curly black hair, her baby was growing big faster than Corrine could catch up. It seemed only yesterday the chubby little baby was asleep in a crib, now she ran around the house all day with her toys… The stars appeared one by one as moonlight became Corrine’s only source of light; and while she stared at one star in particular, Corrine remembered that night just four years ago.

Alone in the room together, he caressed her back as they softly kissed on the bed. His hand traced her hourglass figure and she pressed closer; she could feel his breath on her neck as the rhythm of his heartbeat became the rhythm of their bodies in a passionate dance. Kissing and caressing turned to lovemaking, and before she was able to think clearly or stop herself, she gave her body away. Corrine lay in bed with Nathan’s arms around her as the realization of what they had just done began to hit her. Twenty-one years old and always known as the ‘good Christian girl’ who was involved in several church activities, Corrine never imagined that she would lose her virginity before marriage. Wasn’t it age twelve that her parents had given her the purity ring and she made a commitment to save sex for her husband? At that moment, however, Corrine could no longer find her identity in the purity she had cherished for so long; instead, masks of shame and guilt settled on her face and she wore them well.
***
Three months later she found out she was pregnant. No matter how hard Corrine had tried to hide it, the morning sickness and slight weight gain finally prompted her to see a doctor. Dr. Edward’s soft green eyes were full of compassion when she told Corrine the news:
“Corrine honey, the results are in… and the test is positive. You’re going to have a baby.”
Dr. Edwards continued speaking about pregnancy care instructions but Corrine couldn’t listen. A baby? The news hit Corrine like a slap in the face and she instantly became flush. It couldn’t be! What would her family think? Her church? And what about Nathan? He loved her so…
“Honey? Are you alright? Corrine you’re going to be ok. This sort of thing happens all the time. There are lots of options now days if you don’t want to have the child.”
Don’t want the child? The only thing that could possibly be worse than getting pregnant in the Christian world was having an abortion. No, that wouldn’t be an option. She would have the child. After a few more minutes with Dr. Edwards, Corrine left the office and got into her car to have what would be the hardest conversation of her young life.
She had known for at least three months now that the relationship needed to end. Corrine couldn’t bring herself to love Nathan anymore. He was associated with the guilt that constantly plagued her mind and tore away at her soul. She knew it wasn’t his fault. They both had wanted it, but oh how she longed to place the blame entirely on him. In her mind, he was the enemy.

The moonlight of the sky shone overhead now, and the steps of the old brick building she sat on grew cold. Corrine shivered and gasped as she remembered how the pain had caused such turmoil in her heart. Her head buried in her hands, Corrine sobbed while the story unfolded once more in her mind as it so often did when she was alone.

She pulled into his driveway sobbing. It took her several minutes before she could compose herself together enough to walk to the door. Praying his roommate wouldn’t answer, Corrine knocked on the door and waited. The door opened; Nathan took one glance at Corrine and folded her into his arms while she sobbed the words.
Nathan, I’m pregnant.”
She felt Nathan’s body stiffen when he heard the words. His face paled and a look of utter anguish meant the news didn’t hit him any easier than it had Corrine. He buried his face in his hands and shook his head aggressively.
“No Corrine that can’t be right. We only did it once.”
“Dr. Edwards examined me Nathan. I’m three months along.”
“Damn it Corrine! Are you going to keep the child?”
“What?! Are you kidding me right now? Of course I’m keeping the child! I’ve already screwed up enough. I can barely live with myself now knowing I’ve committed adultery with you, let alone murder a child. What can you possibly be thinking?
“Adultery Corrine? Come on. Please, are we really throwing this church crap in right now? We need to think about this kid.”
“You don’t get it do you? I went for twenty-one years without having sex because I made a promise to my parents and to God. Then you come along… and now I’m going to walk around with an enormous belly and swollen ankles! No one sees the consequence of your sin. I have to leave everything I know and love because we couldn’t keep our pants on! Who’s going to allow a high school church leader who just got knocked up to stay involved in the ministry? Do you see how this is affecting me? Can you open your eyes here?”
“Ok baby let’s calm down. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. It just caught me off guard, that’s all. We can work this out. I love you.” He wrapped his arms around her tightly and kissed her forehead. But Corrine knew she needed to say it.
“Nathan, I’m sorry…. I really am, but I just can’t love you anymore. From the moment we had sex I’ve resented you. I don’t know why but when I see you, I honestly just see the man who allowed me to sin. I know it sounds absurd, but Nathan – we’ve got to separate.”
“Corrine,” his voice was softer now. “I know how you see me. I know that your virginity was important to you. I’m sorry, so so sorry. But babe, this is my child too. And I love you. Marry me. Please? I know how you feel but can we please just talk about this rationally?”
“Nathan I can’t. I can’t marry a man I don’t love and I don’t love you.”

The conversation went on but Corrine had made up her mind. She left Nathan that night. He was a mess but he let her go. For months Nathan pleaded with Corrine to change her mind but she wouldn’t budge. After Eva was born he continued to pursue Corrine until slowly he began to only show up on weekends to see his child. It’s better this way, she thought. A check appeared in the mail every month from him; he was diligent about child support and weekly visits, but there was never a word spoken between the two former lovers about a possible future together.

Corrine sighed as she got into her Honda Accord and headed for home. Nearing 9:00 now, Eva would be asleep when she arrived. The babysitter, a college senior named Anna, faithfully came over even on late notice to watch Eva. They were good friends, Eva and Anna. Eva liked to sing and dance for Anna, while Anna read her bedtime stories and cooked her favorite dinner, macaroni and cheese. This particular night, Corrine asked Anna to watch Eva while she attended a conference held downtown for aspiring writers. One day Corrine hoped to be a writer; she hoped to share her story with women who were in the same situation Corrine found herself four years ago. In the meantime, her job with the newspaper paid the bills while Corrine took classes and attended writers’ conferences. Because many of the conferences were held at night and the events Corrine reported were evening affairs, Anna came over often.

Something about Anna made Corrine feel comfortable. There was a sense of peace between the two young women, a bond. Corrine couldn’t describe it, but as Anna became more a part of their small family, parts of Corrine’s heart that had been so hardened slowly softened. Anna was nearly four years younger than Corrine, but her maturity proved otherwise. An English major and avid journalist, she and Corrine always had things to talk about. They both loved Bill Cosby and they adored sweet Eva.
Anna was first introduced to Corrine and Eva at a church picnic a couple years ago. It was the first time Corrine had been able to attend any religious function since the conception of her daughter. Corrine’s father, a pastor of a small church in Roseville, often begged her to return to her faith, but Corrine would have nothing of it. She was certain that her fornication had not only banished her from the Christian community, but that God had certainly shunned her as well. One day, Pastor Mike Lucas pleaded with her until she finally relented: there would be a church picnic on Pelican Hill this Sunday, wouldn’t Corrine and Eva come? Corrine made a mean chocolate cake, and it was certain to be a hit amongst the old ladies… Begrudgingly Corrine brought Eva and the cake to the picnic. She sat next to a spunky, outgoing college student with wild red hair who gravitated to her immediately. Within moments Anna learned all about Corrine and her story, about Nathan and the night that eventually brought Eva into this world. Corrine was surprised at how easily she could talk to Anna. Perhaps it was her eyes full of compassion and grace that allowed Corrine to pour the broken pieces of her heart onto Anna’s lap, as Anna listened intently. Or perhaps it was her eagerness to hear Corrine without an air of judgment that prompted her to share her life. Maybe it was just the shared love for chocolate cake that got the two women talking. Whatever it was, the friendship grew from that moment as Anna and Corrine shared their stories with one another.

Corrine pulled into the garage and noticed only one light on in the house. Anna must be studying, she thought. The musty smell of boxes and tools overwhelmed her as she walked through the garage and into her tiny one bedroom apartment. It was the kitchen light that had been left on. The smell that greeted her told her it was macaroni and cheese night again, though Anna had graciously cleaned the kitchen before Corrine came home. In the living room, Anna lay on the couch asleep. Her Bible was sitting next to her, pen in hand, with the page open to Matthew 9. Corrine still didn’t understand Anna’s faith. Often Anna would speak to Corrine about forgiveness and redemption and healing, but Corrine blew it off. Her heart, though softening, was still bitter, and the scarlet letter, though removed from public display, was still inscribed on Corrine’s heart as part of her identity. Forgiveness, redemption, and healing were empty words to her.
“Anna, wake up. I’m home now; you can go back to your apartment.”
“Corrine! Sorry I must have just fallen asleep! How was the conference?”
“Oh it was good Anna. I have a long way to go with my writing, but it was nice to have encouragement… It was an interesting night to be sure though.”
“How so?”
“Well, you know that old brick building by the church downtown?”
“Do you mean Hollister’s old place? Didn’t it used to be a restaurant? Oh, but it burned in a fire several years ago.”
“Yes that’s the one. The stairs leading up to it are quite marvelous. I sat for an hour or so just looking at the sky – it was so clear tonight. The stars were extravagant and the moonlight brilliant… Got me remembering.”
“Remembering… ?”
“Remembering the night that got out of hand; the night I said goodbye to my virginity, my faith, and the one I loved.”
Anna listened. Corrine sometimes came home reminiscing about those painful memories, and Anna always listened.
“It was so stupid Anna. We just kept going. I had tried so hard to be pure. My parents always talked to me about ‘true love waits’ and at church we always heard the pastor mention the importance of sexual morality. Sinning sexually seemed to be the biggest mistake anyone could make, aside from killing someone, that is. And yet I found myself committing that very sin, and I still haven’t gotten over it. I never talk to God anymore, and every time I go to my parent’s home, it just feels like everyone looks at me; inside their hearts, they shake their head in disgust. How could I have been so careless?”
“You loved him Corrine, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” Corrine responded quietly. She had never admitted it to herself after that night, let alone to another person. Despite the resentment she felt toward Nathan, she knew that deep down she truly loved him.
“Corrine… people make mistakes. We were designed with passion and sexual desire. That night between you and Nathan, why those desires were explored and met in a way you hadn’t expected. I’m not excusing you or saying it was right, because the Bible certainly warns against it, but Corrine you can’t condemn yourself. For the last few years I’ve seen you hide behind masks of shame and guilt, as if that were the only way to respond to sin. Do you remember the verse every Christian memorizes at the age of 5? John 3:16?”
“Yes… ‘For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.’”
“Do you know what comes after those words, Corrine?”
“Nope. Haven’t touched a Bible years Anna.”
Anna’s eyes lit up as she began to explain something Corrine could tell was close to her heart.
“’For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’ You see Corrine? If we didn’t mess up so badly, we wouldn’t need Jesus! The reason Jesus came to this world was to save it! We aren’t expected to be perfect… if we were, Christ died for nothing. Corrine you are forgiven and meant to live free. That one act does not define who you are once you belong to Jesus. You are free from shame and guilt if you only believe in the salvation offered through Jesus!”
“Anna… I hear you and I hear what you are saying, but I can’t get it through my head to my heart that I might be worthy of such freedom. I feel like I will always live with guilt and shame.”
“But Corrine, don’t you get it? None of us are worthy of such a gift. God knew that! That’s why Jesus came… because we aren’t and never will be worthy. We aren’t condemned when we believe in Jesus. He makes us worthy by His resurrection from His death on the cross.”
“Anna… I remember hearing this and even preaching it in Sunday school and thinking it was truth, but I don’t think I’ve ever wholeheartedly believed it.”
“Accept it and believe it. Confess it with your mouth. That’s all Corrine. You don’t have to do anything to get closer to God or to be more worthy. It’s all about believing in the message of Jesus’ love for us.”
“What about Nathan?”
“You need to forgive him Corrine. If you expect to be forgiven, then you need to forgive him as well. Just as much as it was his fault, it was yours too…”
“I know. I think I’ve always known.”
“You know what you need to do Corrine. I’ve got to go home now… it’s getting late. I’ll be praying for you. Let me know if you need me to baby-sit Eva tomorrow. We played a mean game of hide-and-go-seek going on tonight.”
“Thanks Anna. You mean a lot to me, and you mean a lot to Eva too. I will think about what you said. Your money is on the table in the entry sitting next to the roses. Good night.”

Anna quietly left as Corrine sat on the couch blinking through her tears. This pain had been like chains wrapped tightly around her chest, not allowing room to breathe. Was it true what Anna told her? Could it be that the scarlet letter written so deeply and painfully on her heart might be removed? She bowed her head and began to pray for the first time in over four years. And with each word spoken in the stillness of her heart, Corrine reveled in the moment she had been waiting for as the masks were removed and in its place, joy written vividly on her face.
The next morning was a new day. The sun shone brightly through the blue lace curtains, and Corrine could smell the fresh roses just outside her window. She lay in bed for a moment, recapping all that had taken place last night. Her countenance had changed, and for the first time in years, Corrine felt free. Corrine looked at her watch, 9:00am. Eva would be awake soon. Without another moment passing, Corrine picked up the phone and dialed the number she had long waited to call.
“Hello?”
Corrine’s heart leaped when she heard that voice again. How familiar and warm it sounded!
“Nathan… it’s me Corrine. Listen, can we meet for coffee later today? There’s something I want to tell you…”

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2 thoughts on “Roses

  1. Christie says:

    When do I get to read Part 2? The suspense is killing me! I love the way you draw me into the story from the very beginning, with the flashback and the subtle transition from the present to past and back again. I also like your use of adjectives to describe sights, sounds, and colors. It makes me feel warm inside. Good work Annie, keep it up!

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